City Council considers 14 amendments to Seattle’s ‘Grand Bargain’ on affordable housing

A small crowd watches the old Marion Apartments building come down at Pine and Bellevue in 2012

A small crowd watches the old Marion Apartments building come down at Pine and Bellevue in 2012

Seattle City Council members have put forward 14 amendments to Mayor Ed Murray’s cornerstone affordable housing legislation, including one intended to help replace cheap apartments demolished during the city’s recent construction boom.

Last year, Murray unveiled his “Grand Bargain” with developers, where building size bonuses would be given for a payment or performance system that requires multi-family developers either make 5% to 8% of units income restricted or pay a fee into an affordable housing fund.

The Mandatory Affordable Housing measure is expected to create 6,000 income restricted units over the next 10 years. However, City Council member Lisa Herbold says the city has demolished roughly the same amount of “affordable” apartments over the past decade, particularly in desirable neighborhoods.

Three amendments recently discussed in the City Council’s planning committee are attempting to address the issue. Amendments from Herbold and Council member Mike O’Brien state the council’s intention to increase the payment and performance requirements in neighborhoods most at risk of displacement. High displacement areas were identified in the Seattle 2035 report, published in May. O’Brien, who represents northwest Seattle, said the amendment would help bring back affordable units in desirable areas — something he says many residents in those areas are asking for.

Another amendment would require the city to publish a report in 2018 to measure performance of the grand bargain. It would include an analysis of how many projects took the payment versus performance options and recommendations to get an even split.

District 4 rep Rob Johnson proposed an amendment hat would lengthen the terms of affordability for units crated under the program from 50 to 100 years. The adjustment brings the legislation inline with standard affordable housing practices, according to Johnson. Other amendments would make the following changes to the legislation:

  • Adds an additional decision criterion for investment of cash contributions in affordable housing to include proximity to projects choosing the payment option.
  • Clarifies that where an affordable rental unit is converted to an ownership unit the existing tenant has a right of first offer.
  • Authorizes the Office of Housing Director to establish initial monitoring fees. And, establishes that annual fees may
  • Where rental units provided under the performance option are converting to ownership, provides the option for affordable rental units to be converted to affordable ownership units.

Proponents of the MHA framework say it will be crucial to unlocking the lion’s share of the 20,000 units of affordable housing Murray has called for. Last week’s meeting builds on the resolution passed last fall as the Council members consider the legislation to update the Seattle Municipal Code. Rezoning and upzones in certain key areas like 23rd and Union are also part of the proposal.

The City Council’s planning committee will be discussing the amendments again during its Tuesday morning meeting.

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5 thoughts on “City Council considers 14 amendments to Seattle’s ‘Grand Bargain’ on affordable housing

  1. “However, City Council member Lisa Herbold says the city has demolished roughly the same amount of “affordable” apartments over the past decade, particularly in desirable neighborhoods.”

    Actually, Lisa Herbold is being intentionally dishonest here. From the stranger article today, they link to here (http://www.seattle.gov/dpd/cs/groups/pan/@pan/documents/web_informational/dpdd017579.pdf) to justify the claim that the “city” (as though the city did it themselves) demolished 6k apartments, but it’s only 2,024+1,210 multifamily apartments, so the real number is half of what CM Herbold claims. Hopefully y’all can update the article to reflect that fact.

    • Zach many or most of the single-family demos you discount may have contained rental units on land zoned for multi-family use and were replaced with multi-family buildings – like boarding houses or other apartments. This phenomenon has certainly happened on Capitol Hill.

      Maybe you’re cherry-picking the data because you favor developing as many new buildings as possible and to hell with the ramifications.

    • many or most? where do you get that data? regardless, the policy fix here from the councilwoman is to increase MHA set-asides, but single family zones are totally exempt from MHA requirements, so even including them in the discussion is specifically dishonest.

      further, this article calls them “apartments” and in no sense is a single family a home an apartment whether or not it was rented out.

    • Yes, having developers build as many new housing units regardless of who lives in them is exactly what we need. Who cares if the new buildings are really expensive, I’d rather the new buildings be designed for new rich people than have these same people bid up my current apartment.

  2. http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/city-having-blown-its-chance-for-affordable-units-in-apartment-boom-is-now-deflecting-blame/

    Seattle Times July 26 article ridiculed the “grand bargain,” indicating the city may have blown its best chance at creating affordable housing with the current, record, apartment boom. Twelve of 14 city neighborhoods saw their number of apartment buildings grow by 50% during since 2012.

    According to Dupre+Scott data, “if you count what was built from the start of the boom, 2012, to today, plus what’s already in the pipeline to be built in the next three years, Seattle is on track to add more apartment stock in buildings of 20-plus units than it did in all the years combined going back to 1900.”

    Infact,the 13,000 units opened this year plus the 26,000 in the three-year pipeline totals nearly 40,000, almost 33% more than Mayor Murray’s own goal for 30,000 new “market-rate” units by 2025.

    Yet the City establishment still demands more up-zoning.

    According to the Times, the City a few years ago was poised to levy an impact fee on development to create an affordable housing fund. Then the Mayor dropped it for another idea, that all new developments include affordable units in their buildings or pay a fee.

    But it’s now too late to implement the new requirement for the 13,000 units already opened this year, as well as the 26,000 three-year pipeline units. Those units wont be subject to a fee or affordable-housing requirement.